Doctor Who #120: The Savages Part 1

"They're very pleasant, yes they're both very pleasant. Apart from their juvenile exuberances, I'm sure you'll like them." (The first Doctor, on his companions.)TECHNICAL SPECS: This story is missing from the archives, though abundant telesnaps exist. I've listened to the soundtrack as narrated by Peter Purves, but for purposes of this review, I'll be using a reconstruction (Part 1, Part 2). First aired May 28 1966.

IN THIS ONE... The TARDIS lands in the far future, where an advanced society seems to be exploiting a more primitive one.

REVIEW: The previous episode ended on an ironic twist as the Doctor claimed to have landed in a far future age of prosperity while a savage right out of 100,000 B.C. appeared on the ignored scanner. The truth is, the setting contains both, the first time this trope is used in Doctor Who, but far from the last. The other first is that the Doctor is immediately recognized by the (advanced) natives. New Who has made us used to the Doctor as Legend, but here, it's very strange, even if their information is partial at best (companions? wha--?). These future people are basically Doctor Who fans, tracking his movements through time and space, and upon meeting him, lavish him with new clothes and his companions with bejeweled daggers (what). And the Doctor drinks it in, his innate arrogance making him easy prey for flatterers.

But if the Doctor's notoriety seems to have undergone a paradigm shift, it really isn't the only regular character who acts strangely. Steven has no reason, for example, to think Dodo's making up stories about cavegirls being led away by armed guards. He's always been one to question everything, but in this case, he's content to believe the city dwellers he just met and who are obviously hiding something. Dodo, usually jumping into danger like it's all a game, suddenly spends all her time screaming with the slightest of provocations (at least she goes off-tour). The disharmony between the companions also rings false, however Ian Stuart Black doesn't seem to be one for following the production bible, as will also be evidenced by the next story, The War Machines. But I'm getting ahead of myself.

Chris Barry directed this story, so it must look pretty good, though it's sometimes hard to say with the murky telesnaps that have survived. The sets seem impressive enough, though they're the usual Hartnell future stuff - lots of white, sterile walls and floors, with a strange sculpture here and there. That hallway set (above) isn't generic though, and the way the city dwellers talk about their home, it seems huge. The city is a utopia where ghoulishly, scientists drain the life force out of primitives to enhance their population's qualities. And yet, they still have guards bitching about their bosses. Far from classless then. Of the Savage way of life, we know very little, except that they live in fear of the city dwellers. Props to Clare Jenkins as Nanina whose pitiful whimpers make the life force draining process seem a fate worse than death.

THEORIES: If this is the far, far future, then it makes some measure of sense that they might know of the Doctor's travels and general interference in history (and it's ALL history to them). Obviously, these guys have the ability to peer into the vortex, so they might also be tracking other Time Lords for all we know. That seems their principle source of information, because had the Doctor been legendary at this point, they would at least have known his name. So why don't they? And why don't most future/alien societies treat the Doctor has a legend as often happens in the new series? Well, it's my belief that as the Doctor travels through time and space, he changes history, if only to place himself there. So when the Doctor visits the city in this episode, they've only been able to track his first incarnation's movements, and not the things yet to come. The Doctor is treated according to the notoriety he's accumulated from his perspective, not from some universal perspective. It's a paradox, what can I tell ya?

REWATCHABILITY: Medium - Though the characters are handled differently than they have before, the episode should be interesting to Who historians tracking the evolution of the program and its protagonist.


LiamKav said...

"The Doctor is treated according to the notoriety he's accumulated from his perspective, not from some universal perspective. It's a paradox, what can I tell ya?

"Father's Day" supports that theory. The Doctor and Rose don't see their future selves before they've done so. On the other hand, Martha does see the Doctor in "Smith and Jones" before she's met him.

I've never really thought the "Doctor as legend" thing needed touching too much. It's perfectly understandable for different races to have different knowledge levels of the Doctor (and Time Lords in general). It can be chalked up to direct interference, levels of interest amoungst the population in celebrities, whether someone left their iPad on the train containing condifential information about him.

Even getting his name wrong makes sense, considering the number of famour historical and mythical figures we have with different names. If the Son of god existed and ever came back, would he spend his whole time walking around saying "er, actually, it's Jeshua."


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